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WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials have promised that the Ed Schultz show will air on American Forces Radio, but no launch date has been set.

The liberal talk show host had been told by AFR programmers that his show would begin airing on the overseas network starting Oct. 17.

Pentagon officials scuttled those plans that morning, saying the decision to add the show had not gone through the proper review.

Since then, a growing group of Democrats has decried the move, saying defense officials wanted political payback for anti-Bush statements made by Schultz the week before his AFR debut.

In a letter sent last week to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita wrote that American Forces Radio and Television Service managers have decided to include Schultz’s show in their new programming plans.

AFRTS director Mel Russell said officials were waiting on updated information on the show’s audience size and syndication arrangement before giving the go-ahead.

Now, Schultz’s show will be included with a host of programming changes scheduled before the end of the year.

“There’s still a question of what other changes [there are], and when we’ll make the changes,” he said. “But the plan is to air the Ed Schultz show.”

Still, show producer James Holm said he has not received official word from the Defense Department on the decision, and he worries that officials may drag their feet in getting the show on the air.

“Right now, we’re looking at this as a minor victory,” he said.

Several Democrats have demanded an independent investigation into how the American Forces Radio and Television Service is run, noting that conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger vastly outnumber liberal offerings for the servicemembers.

And on Monday, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced plans to amend the 2006 Defense Authorization bill to include “fairness and balance” in AFR offerings.

Russell said he expects two other long-form talk shows to be added to the radio lineup this year, though he would not say which shows were being considered.

Schultz’s show is broadcast daily in about 100 markets in the United States. Plans originally called for the first hour of his three-hour show to be broadcast on the AFR network.

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